Sporting Lee’s Summit moves forward into 2016

Sporting-LS

NOVEMBER 2015 – One of the oldest and largest soccer clubs in the state, Sporting Lee’s Summit is
an all-inclusive, year-round program for kids from 3 to 63.

Founded as the Lee’s Summit Soccer Association in 1992 with 55 teams and about 600 players, the club has grown to include 4,300 players in their recreational division and another 2,100 players in their spring and fall competitive division.

The club was the 14th program to join Sporting KC, becoming Sporting Lees Summit (Sporting LS) in January.

The club also hosts a wide variety of training camps, participates in Sporting KC Academy and includes a well-regarded special-needs program.

“We do a lot of fun things here,” said Sporting LS president Ron Cox. “It starts at age three and it goes all the way through to adult. The oldest participant was 63, a Brazilian, in the adult rec league. It’s an all-encompassing program.”

The recreational division has seven regular-season games in the spring and fall, along with eight games in the summer for the adult division. U17 and younger have the same spring and
fall schedule, but also play season-ending tournaments.

The competitive division runs all-year round. More than a thousand kids participated in last spring’s session and nearly 1,100 participated this past fall. While some kids play in both sessions, it’s usually a different group in each session due to participation by the kids in other activities.

“It’s mostly different kids,” Cox said. “Some do fall football, or in the spring its high school soccer for girls. The seasons are a lot different. Hundreds of kids do that.”

The club plays the majority of all club games at Legacy Park.

Banner-Sporting-LS“We’re fortunate enough to have 12 full-sized varsity fields,” Cox said. “We carve them up
and each weekend we play on 16 different fields. We schedule 180 matches per weekend and on a typical weekend 9,000 spectators come through our gate.”

The club hopes to grow league participation over the coming years.

“Legacy Park is amazing and has been home to many state and national events,” Cox said. “We have plenty of capacity there as our programs continue to grow.”

One of the most exciting divisions at Sporting LS is its Academy, which is an affiliate of Sporting KC.
“Our goal is to encourage our top one-percenters to transition into our Academy and into the Sporting KC Academy,” Cox said.

The highly-successful program includes 11 teams (ten boys and one girls team) and 176 elite Academy players which feed into high school varsity programs.

“That’s the first step,” Cox said. “We take them in sixth to eighth grade and prep them for high school programs. If they’re good enough, they go into Sporting KC Academy.”

Sporting LS teams and/or players boasts three Missouri State championships and regional champions. In July their U16 team won the USA Cup National Championship. The USA CUP is ranked in the top 5 tournaments in North America.

The club’s training program is one of the best in the United States, developed by Hastings University coach Chris Clements and by technical director Zoran Savic,assistant coach of Sporting KC. Cox. the club President; was named Missouri Youth Soccer Coach of the Year in 2008 and received a “Champions of Character” award from the NAIA last year.

Training programs are available throughout the summer and also in winter.

“Training, we feel, is a big milestone,” Cox said. “We have 1,000 kids in non-league activities, these include camps, clinics, community events, and more.”

The Winter I session runs six weeks from December through mid-January, followed by Winter II which runs through February.

Most teams play a 45 minute match each week, while some teams will also have a training session during the week. Winter camps and clinics include a two-hour session called Finishing Camp. Sporting LS will also hold a goalkeepers camp as well.

“The winter sessions are exciting. It gives kids an opportunity to stay active,” Cox said. The kids are cooped up in the house in the winter and this lets them burn off some of that energy. It takes them away from the gaming stations and keeps them fit.”

There are approximately six-to-eight teams in each age bracket and are evenly divided between boys and girls. Registration for Winter I ends Nov. 7, while Winter II registration runs through Dec. 1.

Additionally, Sporting LS hosts a sports performance session which runs 12 weeks starting Nov. 9. The hour-long program (5:30-6:30 p.m. for nine and younger, 6:30-7:30 p.m. for age ten and older) helps train kids in a variety of physical skills.

“They’ll do speed and agility, flexibility, lateral movement with cones, hurdles, ladders,” Cox said. “We try to teach a quick first step, balance and lateral movement, all without a soccer ball.”

The Sporting LS winter training programs are hosted at Z Sports, which also plays host to many summer training programs. The 34,000 square foot indoor arena at Z Sports contains three indoor fields and four full-sized varsity fields outside and is also the site for the club’s special-needs program.

“We’re growing our special-needs program,” Cox said. “It’s a fantastic program. Tim Adkins is the coordinator. He’s been doing it for a number of years. Our vision is to continue to add players. We want to build facilities to take on more special-needs players.”

While the program is indoors, Sporting LS would like to move the program outdoors, where youngsters can enjoy the full recreational benefit. Moving the program outside would also help the program expand from its current 25-players.

“One problem for some special-needs players is with audio-sensory perception,” Cox said. We use to play outdoors at Legacy Park, however many of our Special Needs players were distracted by the loud noises, some became frustrated and confused. Our Coordinator felt like less noise would improve the overall program.”

The club hopes to replicate its success in an outdoor space, utilizing existing, undeveloped property at Z Sports.

“We need to create space,” Cox said. “Our goal is to create an outdoor space, so that it’s injury-proof and accessible for wheelchairs with fences like tennis courts. It’ll look like a Futsal court or tennis court, but be outside. We are looking for partners. We’re looking for somebody to come in and help us develop that space. If there are any groups that would like to come in and partner, we would like to hear from them.”

The youngest Sporting LS players also play at Z Sports. There are approximately 100 to 120 three-year olds in the program.

“There’s a trend that kids are not active,” Cox said. “We want to change that trend to get them involved early on and we want to do that with old-fashioned recreating. We want to get them used to doing activities at least two times a week. We keep them outside and get them busy.”

The club is actively looking for groups to partner with the marketing and development of this program.
“We want to partner with community-minded organizations like Children’s Mercy Hospital. Our messages are very similar–to improve overall children’s performance you need adequate sleep, good eating and recreating habits.’” Cox said.

Article by Marc Bowman

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